After breaking my collarbone in Milan last year, my plans for winter racing were shattered (thankfully not like my collarbone) – everything from completing my indoor velodrome accreditation to the training and race prep for the Full Gas league.
Quick background on accreditation: for most velodromes and certainly for indoor ones, riders have to pass a four-stage accreditation which is like four ‘exams’ to prove that you can ride safely on a steeply banked surface. The ‘exams’ include exercises like riding on each line, moving safely up and down the banking, observation (this is a massive one), and group exercises.
So after having to delay my final stage of accreditation for three months, I took it and passed! Now I was ready to race on the track. Well, kind of. My legs were ready, but my lungs certainly were not. Excuse alert: I had shortly recovered from flu and was sticking out a nasty viral infection in my lungs and throat. I thought ‘nah fuck it, I’ve been out of the game for too long’, got myself entered into the league, and paid my entry to be on the start line on the first of Feb.
It has been awe-spiring watching my fellow club riders, and local London riders bomb it round the track for the past few months- the grit, the tactics, the speed, the crash, the camaraderie, the elation. To all of you females, chapeau and thank you for inspiring me and keeping me stoked on cycling throughout the recovery! ♥
The day itself
After a busy day at work, with an afternoon spent shovelling pasta into my face, I got home, changed, and hit up Matt’s ‘office’ for some bike prep to ensure I was at least half ready for the track. A few words of tactics and calming of the nerves, I was sent on my way to the track centre to sign in and prep. I was too nervous to do rollers so kept wrapped up in my outdoor gear until it was time to head to the start line for the warm-up scratch race. And away we went, five neutralised laps to keep us riders all together and used to the track. My legs were feeling fine, and then the starting whistle went and it was race time. 25 laps, jostling for position, changes, and some attempted breakaways – small ones though. I had couple of coughs, but pressed on. Five laps to go and the pace quickened, my throat tickled, I cough a wee bit. Three laps and people are getting settled into final positions before the final sprint. Two laps and Eeva breaks away (AMAZING!) and she takes a solid first across the line.
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Second race – reverse win-out over 30 laps. At 25 laps, there’s a sprint for 6th place, 20 laps for 5th, 15 for 4th, and so on. This is a tactical one, and hugely depends on your position and how much effort you know you can give, and who else may break away and try to steal the ranking. Rosi broke away for fourth and I went after her. She secured fourth place (WOOOOO!) and I set on keeping ahead to take third – I was already half a lap up so thought it should be okay for another five laps. A couple of laps in, the commissaire told me to slow down. I thought “Maybe he wants me to be with the bunch to begin the next sprint, might be the etiquette of track racing”, so I eased off and let the group catch me for the next sprint. When the sprint lap for third place came, I tried to make a break for it but my lungs weren’t having it and after another lap I decided to come off to cough up properly. I thought I wouldn’t have a chance against some solid riders out there for second and first place. When I came off, people were asking why I eased off and I told them about the commissaire – they said that he shouldn’t have done that because I was doing all the right things, and it’s a race! Lesson learnt.
Third race – points race. 40 laps, sprints every 10 laps, points go to the top four riders across the line each time. Extra points if you lap the field, negative points if you get lapped. My only tactic was to stay with the lead bunch for as long as I could, and observe how the other riders behave for the sprints. I managed to stay in for 30 laps which I was happy with, and Eeva managed to grab a bunch of points and took third place!
Fourth and final race – elimination. Every other lap, the last rider across the line is eliminated – usually there are 10 eliminations then it’s a 10-lap scratch race for podium. There weren’t enough ladies racing so they decided to do eliminations until there were two riders left, then do a one-lap sprint for first and second place. I’d done this race once before and loved it, so I was going to try to stick to my tactics that had served me well last time. Once on the track however, this all went out the window and I pushed myself too hard on the first elimination sprint and got caught out on the second sprint. Oh well! I learnt that I should have stuck to the tactics 😛 Eeva got fifth place woop woop!
That was my first indoor track event over and done with, and I’ve learnt a ton about racing on the steep banking! HUGE thank you to Velociposse – for the support I’ve had from other racers, coaches and mechanics, and from riders who turned out to support me in my first indoor event! You all rock and I love Velociposse to bits!
Catch you at the next track league on 15th February – if you’re female and registered in the league, please come and compete! It’s sick to ride with other badass women and you know you will enjoy it and be proud of yourself after 😀